Sunday, October 26, 2008
Clyde, the Fraud Dog, and I head down Jeremy’s Trail on our bluff and perch on the spot just before the deep drop where Jeremy tied the rope off. I can see the tide as it comes in, close below us, hear the busy sound of breaking water, its soothing rhythm.
The sun is high in the sky, as high as it will get today and I look up steadily, straight at it, like I warned my children not to, lifting my face. I am hungry for sunshine as winter approaches in Alaska; I never knew how much I needed it until now. Facing my sixth winter here, after a long gray and overcast summer season, I am outside at the mere hint of the sun’s appearance, throwing myself at it, beginning to understand sun worship as it was practiced by ancient peoples.
The image of a chariot pulling the Sun across the sky comes to me as I stare at the too small yellow globe high above me. I don’t have to imagine; I can see it in the Alaskan sky, a sun chased far.
In the Nordic myth, the Sun rides in a chariot pulled by horses that are chased by wolves, known as Skoll (treachery), across the sky and below the horizon. Living in Alaska has made me conscious of nature in a way I’ve never experienced elsewhere – and by necessity. Here treachery becomes stronger in the winter, weaker in the light of the summer months, when it takes Skoll longer and longer to chase the Sun below the edge of the world. Some day, according to the mythology, Skoll will catch the sun and eat her; that day is known as Ragnorokr, the twilight of the Gods’; destiny.
Until then, the Sun deity is worshipped, loved, offerings are made. Until then, I do my daily dose of light, 10,000 luxes of it, every morning. I take Calcium with Vitamin D, suck Vitamin D lozenges, and eat the salmon stock-piled in our freezer from the summer’s catch.
Clyde puts his paw across my arm purposefully and snuggles his doggy face into my shoulder, letting me know he highly approves of this activity. He is happy to sit perched halfway down the bluff with me, to worship, even to resist the temptation to plunge down the hill to chase the shorebirds mocking him from below.
The sun warms me in a place I know I had better nurture if I want to survive the darkening winter. The light sparks my imagination like a piece of kindling taking catch. I think of my father’s people way far off and long ago when they first came to America, soldiers for the Revolutionary War. I picture their odyssey from the eastern shores of the Atlantic through Virginia and on into Kentucky. Our people lived among trees in hollows, near branches of lakes and rivers and streams and something moved them, perhaps the rushing water. They made music and spells, spun stories, like me. Might they ever have conceived of a descendent of theirs’, gone this far north, all the way to Alaska?
This is the same sun, I think, that they saw a hundred years ago and more.
My father told me once, as if in warning, or perhaps in apology, “The Deckers were some wild people, you know. It runs in our blood.”
Remembering, I pull my hat off and loosen my coat, think, “That’s me. I’m a Decker, a wild woman. I was a wild girl. I always will be.”
Somehow, I don’t think any Decker girl way back then or now - say a girl like my Grandma Ollie Mae was once - would mind a’tall, not a’tall, as she would say.
Clyde, the Fraud Dog, and I stay where we are then, perched on our small church platform in the alders, long into this day’s journey across latitude 59 and the Alaskan sky.
Skoll is running fast, chasing the light, the horses’ hoof beats fading.